Working with Interpreters, Bilingualism and CAT ~ 27 September 2021

Past Catalyse Event

Cropped image of multicoloured woven fabric in blue and purple hues

Working with Interpreters, Bilingualism and CAT

A half day (afternoon) online workshop with CAT psychotherapist, supervisor and trainer, Jessie Emilion

Event Hashtag: #CATLanguage21

Date: Monday 27 September 2021 (pm only)
Time: 1.30 to 4.30 pm
Venue:  Online via Zoom
Fees:  ACAT member :: £50.00
non-ACAT member :: £60.00
(Invoicing can be requested and incurs an additional £15.00 fee)

Overview of workshop

Talking therapies rely heavily on confidence in sharing meaning through mutually understood language. What happens in the therapeutic process when there is language unfamiliarity between the two parties? How does language help us manage strong emotion when we are fluent in more than one – our ‘mother tongue’ plus a secondary language?

Therapists sometimes express reservations about working across language in psychotherapy. Some engage the support of language interpreters, but may experience this as challenging, particularly when expectations do not match up to how triadic (three-way) communication processes work in practice. Sometimes the skill of the interpreter is questioned, while the skills of the therapist to engage relationally and work effectively with and through a third party may be overlooked. Access to services for communities who are marginalised because of language needs can suffer, leading to greater inequality in provision and unmet needs. Given the speed and unpredictability of world events, services may be ill-prepared to respond to the mental health needs of communities at high risk of mental health difficulty as a result of loss and trauma.

Drawing on her wealth of experience as both a trained interpreter and a CAT psychotherapist and supervisor, Jessie Emilion provided opportunities in the afternoon workshop to explore bilingualism and the use of primary and secondary language in therapy. The complexities of the triadic relationship when working with an interpreter were explored within a CAT framework, aiming to give participants greater understanding and confidence in three-way working across language.

Working with Interpreters, Bilingualism and CAT was the second in an Inclusive CAT series of full and half day CPD events focussing on CAT practice in the context of equality, diversity and intersectionality. These aim to support CAT therapists in working sensitively and effectively with individuals and client groups with protected characteristics.

The series included a morning session with Jessie on Power and Powerlessness: Exploring Issues of Race and Culture in Therapy.

Aims and learning outcomes

The half-day was designed to help participants:

  • Understand the complexities of working across language in psychotherapy.
  • Appreciate the interplay between emotion and fluency in two or more languages in therapy.
  • Develop awareness of relational and process aspects of working in a triadic, rather than dyadic, therapeutic relationship.
  • Build skills for working effectively with interpreters.

Attending this event aimed to support participants in developing skills for sensitive and effective intercultural practice. They also took away a reading list for further professional development.

Who was it for?

The event was relevant for qualified and trainee CAT therapists (practitioner & psychotherapist level), plus other trainee and qualified therapists and UKCP-registered psychotherapists.


Jessie Emilion is a counsellor, cognitive analytic psychotherapist, supervisor, and trainer. She has worked in the NHS as a senior clinician for the last 20 years. Jessie has an interest in bi-lingualism, culture and race, and the impact of these constructs on mental health. She has extensive experience of working with refugee communities as a clinician and an interpreter. Jessie contributes to Catalyse Practitioner Training and has co-led CAT training programmes internationally in India and Malta.

Jessie is the CAT Psychotherapy Lead at the Munro Centre, for South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation. She leads ACAT’s Inequality and Diversity Special Interest Group. Additionally she co-chairs the Equality Diversity and Intersectionality Committee within UKCP’s Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy College, and is a member of the UKCP EDI Task Force. Additionally she is part of BACP’s EDI Task and Finish Group.

Jessie also provides psychological assessments for several media companies, including the BBC and ITV.

Group size

Places were limited to a maximum of 15 participants.